If you scrutinise the photograph (left), you may notice that an essential part of running a writing workshop for nurses is baiting the trap with a selection of finger food. There is no better way to lure busy team members in the middle of their working day.
Along with Dr. Deborah Ritchie of Nursing Studies, I ran four lunchtime sessions for mental health nurses at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, under the theme ‘Telling our Stories’. Our immediate aim was to generate fresh accounts of mental health nursing today. Not only for the pleasure and satisfaction of the exercise, but because the voices of nurses are so often missing in debates around healthcare. In the long term, we are interested in seeing how these kind of creatively generated stories could be used to inform research, planning and advocacy.
We were assisted by the wonderful arts organisation, Artlink, who run a range of creative activities for patients at the hospital. They kindly loaned the big kitchen at their Glasshouses base so that we could get away from the usual training room atmosphere and have a space that was more homey and informal.
A big thanks to all the nurses who took part, none of whom had done creative writing before, but who rose fearlessly to the challenge, producing work that was moving, funny, sometimes frightening and filled with a tough-hearted dedication.
The following was written by staff nurse Jo Dunlevie in response to a challenge to find metaphors or images that would capture the transition between work and home. It’s a fine piece of imaginative writing.
Unfunny clowns in dangerous big shoes
Stomping animals growling in the dark
Bright lights, Loud horns
Blinking light to dark
High wire ooh's and Ahh's
A moment away from a fall
A Disaster, head off in the lions jaws
Slow steady smiles
Big laughs and tiny giggles
Quiet steady light, and the smell of growing things
Friendly voice, nudging concern
Big sighs and lashes on sleeping cheeks
Soft fall of turning pages
And the Dum de dum of life in Ambridge